Dover Athletic 3-3 Bath City
FA Trophy Quarter Final
Crabble Athletic Ground
By Kevin Porter
Bath City came within a whisker of producing an FA Trophy Quarter Final upset, but had to settle for a replay after ten-man Dover Athletic struck with two late goals to snatch an unlikely draw. Both sides finished a dramatic and highly charged game with diminished numbers, with Dover’s Stefan Payne being dismissed for retaliation just before the break, and Naby Diallo seeing red deep into second half stoppage time for a high tackle that sparked a fracas in front of the dugouts.
The hosts began brightly and Chris Kinnear shot wide of the target in the very first minute. City responded almost immediately when Nick McCootie cut in from the left and drew a diving save from home keeper Andy Rafferty. The ball ran to Dave Pratt who appeared to be impeded as he attempted to turn inside the box, but the linesman’s flag was already raised for offside.
Dover forged ahead in controversial circumstances on 6 minutes when Diallo’s attempted clearance was deflected off a home player into Payne’s path. The striker, who was seemingly a couple of yards offside, calmly stroked the ball into the net beyond Jason Mellor. Amid vociferous City appeals, the referee Mr. Nicholas Kinseley spoke at length to his assistant, but eventually awarded the goal.
The visitors were clearly rocked by this set back and Athletic threatened to take the game away from them with a spell of pressure. On 12 minutes, the lively Tom Murphy skipped into the Bath box down the inside left channel, and Mellor was required to produce an excellent diving save to repel his shot at the near post.
City gradually came more into the match and were beginning to enjoy their equal share of possession. Andy Gallinagh clipped a measured through ball to McCootie in the 25th minute but, as the forward raced into the area, the angle proved too narrow and he scuffed his shot wide of the near post.
Diallo released Gallinagh down the left on 29 minutes, and Rafferty did well to hold his low cross as Chris Allen waited to pounce. At the other end, a dangerous ball in from the left flank was glanced narrowly wide of the far post by Nick Deverdics.
As half time approached, Payne broke beyond the City defensive line, but succeeded only in firing wide from a good position. The game’s first flash point arrived in the 45th minute as the players awaited a home corner kick. There was a scuffle in the goalmouth and, following another lengthy consultation between the officials, Payne was dismissed for raising his hands to Mellor.
When the corner was eventually taken, City broke forward quickly, and only a well-timed tackle by Tyrone Sterling prevented Pratt from having a clear shot at goal.
The second period commenced with the Conference South outfit sensing the game was there for the taking, as they looked to pressurize their numerically disadvantaged hosts. Gallinagh, who was finding space on the left, charged into the home box in the 48th minute, and Rafferty was required to make a diving save to turn his rising shot round the near post. Dover replied with an effort from Barry Cogan that was wide of the target from the edge of the penalty area.
Lee Howells was forced into a change after 53 minutes when the limping Phil Walsh was replaced by Ross Stearn. This had the effect of injecting more pace and urgency into the City play and, despite the badly cutting up pitch, they began to produce some fluent and enterprising football.
Frankie Artus tried his luck from 25 yards but his shot was comfortably collected by Rafferty, and Ashley Kington then came on for the tiring Chas Hemmings.
Bath finally broke through on 59 minutes when Artus picked out Gallinagh’s run and, this time, the skipper curled a perfect low cross-shot into the far corner of the net.
Dover were now rattled, as City poured forward in numbers in search of more goals. The pressure paid off as they took the lead in the 70th minute when a good move ended with Pratt finding Stearn on the edge of the area. The substitute left his marker standing, and drilled a low shot into the corner of the net via the underside of the keeper’s outstretched hand.
Andy Watkins came on for the hard working Pratt, and the visitors should have increased their lead with 14 minutes left on the clock. Another excellent move involving McCootie and Watkins saw the ball reach Kington 20 yards from goal, but the midfielder dragged his shot wide.
The home team came close to equalizing on 81 minutes, when Ricky Modeste’s hooked shot bobbled across the face of Mellor’s goal and rebounded off the far post to safety. However, City struck again a minute later with the best goal of the game. McCootie released Stearn beyond the Athletic defence, and the winger found the back of the net with an exquisite chip, despite Rafferty getting his fingertips to the ball.
The Somerset side continued to press forward, and Stearn shot wide of the post after Watkins’s cross from the right had reached him on the far side of the box. Despite their ascendancy, doubts crept into City’s play when Dover reduced the arrears in the 87th minute. A free kick midway inside the Bath half was played into the box and, when Modeste crossed from the left, Richard Orlu headed past Mellor.
Bath’s defending suddenly became jittery as they began to give the ball away, and they were made to pay for their uncertainty four minutes into stoppage time. A cross from the left was met by former Roman Jake Reid, and Mellor was unable to hold his header as it dropped just behind the goal line.
There was still time for Diallo to receive his marching orders following an unnecessarily high challenge in front of the benches, and the ensuing ugly melee between a host of players and officials ensured that the final whistle was not sounded until the 99th minute.
The travelling supporters amongst the crowd of 985 gave their team a generous ovation at the end, which was tempered only by a feeling of disappointment and frustration that a two-goal lead had evaporated so late in proceedings. However, once the dust had settled there was an overriding feeling of pride in their team’s overall performance against an in-form Conference Premier side.
Thoughts will now turn to the replay at Twerton Park on Tuesday evening (7.45 p.m.) when Dover will have no illusions that passage into the semi-finals will not be easy against a determined City side.
DOVER ATHLETIC – Andy Rafferty, Tom Wynter (James Poole 76), Sean Raggett, Richard Orlu, Tyrone Sterling, Chris Kinnear, Barry Cogan (Jake Reid 90), Nick Deverdics (Ricky Modeste 79), Tom Murphy, Stefan Payne. Subs not used: Lee Hook, Mitch Walker
BATH CITY – Jason Mellor, Sekani Simpson, Andy Gallinagh, Phil Walsh (Ross Stearn 53), Dan Ball, Chas Hemmings (Ashley Kington 57), Chris Allen, Naby Diallo, Dave Pratt (Andy Watkins 73), Nick McCootie, Frankie Artus. Subs not used: Pat Keary, Ben Adelsbury.
Referee – Nicholas Kinseley
Attendance – 985